Ex­tra RAF jets sent to Med as Bri­tain pre­pares to at­tack

Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Larisa Brown De­fence Cor­re­spon­dent

BRI­TAIN will dou­ble its fleet of air­craft sta­tioned in Cyprus if MPs vote in favour of air strikes over Syria on Wed­nes­day.

The Min­istry of De­fence is plan­ning to send at least two ex­tra Tor­nado GR4 fighter jets and six Typhoon at­tack air­craft to RAF Akrotiri within days.

They will join the eight air­craft al­ready sta­tioned at the base con­duct­ing mis­sions over Iraq and will be used to cut off the ‘snake’s head’ of Is­lamic State by us­ing laser-guided mis­siles.

The Brim­stone mis­siles, which can hit a small, fast-mov­ing tar­get, are fired from Tor­na­dos and only Bri­tain and Saudi Ara­bia cur­rently have the ca­pa­bil­ity.

But last night it emerged that the UK may have as few as ten of the mis­siles – de­spite David Cameron say­ing they would make a unique con­tri­bu­tion in the fight against Is­lamic State.

The fig­ure – which was not con­firmed by the MoD – raises doubts about the ad­di­tional im­pact the RAF would be able to make by join­ing other coali­tion forces op­er­at­ing over the wartorn coun­try.

How­ever a de­fence source in­sisted there was a ‘suf­fi­cient stock’ of Brim­stone mis­siles. Mil­i­tary plan­ners at RAF Akrotiri and in Lon­don have al­ready been work­ing to iden­tify key tar­gets for the eight Tor­na­dos al­ready there. They will start bomb­ing in Syria within hours of a yes vote.

It is thought an ex­tra spy plane to help iden­tify ji­hadists on a Bri­tish ‘kill list’ may also pro­vide ex­tra sup­port.

Yes­ter­day Michael Fal­lon told the Daily Mail that it was ‘non­sense’ to sug­gest the UK did not have enough planes to make a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion in the war against Is­lamic State in Syria. His com­ments came af­ter ex­perts said 24 Tor­nado air­craft would be needed for Bri­tain to mount an ef­fec­tive fight and MP Ju­lian Lewis, chair of the de­fence select com­mit­tee, said the UK’s con­tri­bu­tion would be ‘mar­ginal’.

Speak­ing at Lan­caster House in Lon­don, Mr Fal­lon said: ‘We have plenty of planes, and if Par­lia­ment agrees we will send more planes to the fight.’

The Ty­phoons, cur­rently sta­tioned at RAF Lossiemouth in Scot­land and RAF Con­ingsby in Lin­colnshire, have been pro­tect­ing the UK against Rus­sian provo­ca­tion.

They are only equipped with 500lb Pave­way bombs –and not the state-of-the-art £100,000 Brim­stone mis­siles which the Govern­ment says makes Bri­tain’s con­tri­bu­tion so unique.

It is likely they will re­place some of the eight Tor­na­dos cur­rently fly­ing over Iraq, to free them up to fly over Syria.

The Brim­stone mis­sile de­stroys its tar­get with a con­tained ex­plo­sion that gen­er­ates rel­a­tively lit­tle de­bris.

It is far more so­phis­ti­cated than the Amer­i­can’s Hell­fire weapons, which gen­er­ate a large field of shrap­nel when they ex­plode.

The Brim­stone was used against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya in 2011.

The RAF will use the mis­sile to take out spe­cific tar­gets in Syria and con­cen­trate on the ‘up­per tier’ of IS lead­er­ship in their strong­hold.

In some cases the US and French jets have iden­ti­fied tar­gets but have been un­able to at­tack them for fear of caus­ing civil­ian ca­su­al­ties. The Brim­stone should mean that more of these tar­gets can be de­stroyed.

‘We have plenty of planes’

Big hit­ter: A Tor­nado with Brim­stones un­der its fuse­lage

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